Of the many components necessary in building an educated workforce and strong workforce pipeline for business, few are more important than raising the bar on the expectations we have for our students and our education system as a whole.

One of the key indicators of academic and economic success is literacy. Currently in America, about 20% of adults read at or below a fifth grade level – far below the level needed tobesuccessfulintheworkplace. Inaddition, according to a 2011 study by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, students who don’t read proficiently by third grade are four times more likely to leave high school without a diploma than proficient readers. Recognizing the importance of reading at grade level, the Arizona Legislature has enacted “Move On When Reading” which states that, starting in 2013-14, third graders may be held back if they do not demonstrate the designated level of proficiency on the AIMS test. The stakes have never been higher for our efforts to ensure that our youngest students are reading at grade level.

Ensuring that children are ready when they start kindergarten is critical to ensuring future academic success and parents/families play a significant role in ensuring their children are ready. Children who live in print-rich environments and are read to during the first years of life are much more likely to read on schedule. With greater exposure to books, children learn new words they are unlikely to encounter in spoken language.The nurturing and one-on-one attention children receive while parents read aloud encourages them to form a positive association with books and reading that will continue later in life. For these reasons and more, I am so passionate about literacy and am one of the founders of the Tucson Festival of Books which provides opportunities for families to celebrate reading by meeting local authors and experiencing the fun and power of reading.

As business leaders, we have the opportunity and responsibility to work together to advocate for a world class education system that prepares our students to thrive in college, career and life. Our future workforce and our state’s economic future depend on the quality of our students’ education today. That’s why I am pleased to partner with Expect More Arizona to build a high expectations movement to ensure that every Arizona student, from birth through career, receives a world-class education.

Bruce Beach is Chairman/CEO, BeachFleischman PC, a full service CPA firm with offices in Tucson and Phoenix.